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Symptoms of The End Stages of Liver Disease

written by: angiem1981 • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 1/25/2010

Recognize the end stage liver disease symtoms before it's too late. For many patients, this can be the difference of life and death. This is a brief introduction into the nature of these symptoms and treatment options for the patient.

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    End stage liver disease symptoms are typically quite noticeable. Despite the type of liver disease that the individual may be suffering from, there are a few hallmark symptoms that seem to characterize the end stage, also called liver failure. During this last stage, the liver has either lost the ability to function at all or has become cancerous. Once the liver has deteriorated to this point, a transplant will often become necessary for survival.

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    End Stage Liver Disease Symptoms

    During liver failure, the patient may experience various signs and symptoms. Some of the most common and noticeable of these symptoms is jaundice, or yellowing of the skin and eyes. The patient can become severely discolored, more notably so than in the other stages of liver disease. Swelling of the abdomen and extremities that started in these previous stages will also dramatically increase. Nausea, diarrhea, loss of appetite and hallucinations may often be present in these individuals. Overall health may have the tendency to decline as well. Many of these symptoms may be present early on in liver failure but may not be recognized until they have progressed. This is because the presence of many of the mentioned warning signs is normal for patients with liver disease.

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    Treatment for End Stage Liver Disease

    Treatment options for end stage liver disease are rather bleak. When and if possible, medical professionals can attempt to save any functioning part of the liver. This is typically achieved through medication and/or other medical interventions. However, results are very limited and life typically cannot be sustained for a long period of time when successful. The patient will almost always need a liver transplant in these cases. The earlier the symptoms of end stage liver disease is recognized, the better the prognosis. Treatment can be administered that can help prevent total or almost complete function from occurring, which can buy the patient more time.

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    Liver Failure and Death

    When liver transplant is the only option, the chances may be slim. Patients must go on a waiting list to be considered for a new liver and wait times will vary. Although those most in need are placed higher on the list, this does not guarantee that the patient will receive a transplant or survive. Finding a match can be quite difficult and complications from liver transplant can occur. In many instances, the patient with liver failure may succumb to his or her condition. For this reason, many actively dying patients and their families are given the option to make the transition to hospice. Care of these patients will often focus on several different aspects of the process, including pain management and promotion of comfort.

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    References

    Liver Disease: Common Characteristics. University of Maryland Medical Center. 2009. Viewed 24, January 2010. http://www.umm.edu/liver/common.htm.

    Liver Problems. Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic Staff. 18, April 2009. Viewed 24, January 2010. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/liver-problems/DS01133/METHOD=print.

    The Progression of Liver Disease. American Liver Foundation. Updated 28, December 2007. Viewed 24, January 2010. http://www.liverfoundation.org/education/info/progression/.


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